Sunday, September 30, 2012

Window With A View

Last week my sister was visiting here.  She spent considerable time "watching the mountain" out the living room window.  This is something she used to do when she lived in West Virginia.   Many people would laugh at the idea that the ridge behind the garden could be considered a mountain, but the truth is if I had to climb it, the ridge might as well be Everest. 

 I secretly hoped that the young  coyotes would make an appearance for her.  I thought about luring them in with a cage covered with shade cloth knowing that it is their very favorite toy, but I decided against it.  There's no point in inviting trouble.   While she was here birds and the neighbor's cat were the only visitors we noticed, but it's still a fabulous view.  This week there's been more activity.  Every morning I have to  wind open the window to yell at the half a dozen or so deer that come walking down the path.  With the rain and the cooler weather the trees are increasing the color on the hill a little more every day.  Just in case she misses the view, this is for her.

It is definitely fall in the garden, but we still have flowers to add even more color to the changing leaves.  Ed's chrysanthemums and asters are bright spots. The Nicotiana that I let come up all over  still add their evening scent and  reflect the moonlight if the sky clears.   Clouds and rain seem to be the weather we are getting.

When  it's not actively raining,  I'm still making trips to the garden to pick lettuce, green beans, mint, parsley, carrots and strawberries.  It seems like no matter where I go in the garden, every time I come back in the house I have to pick the seeds of Chinese forget-me-nots off my pants, socks and shoes.  They give me something to do while I watch the rain on the  mountain!  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lily Regale Winter Ready

We have been working with these Chinese Trumpet lilies for at least four years.  Van Bourgondien lists them as hardy to zone 3 so we thought it was a simple matter of placing the bulbs in the ground and flowers would follow.  Spring frosts burned their new growth black year after year and no flowers followed.  The three bulbs in the top picture spent last winter planted out in the garden.  Frost hit them again this spring but they did manage to send up late green leaves.  The bulb on the right is likely to divide itself next year.  All three bulbs have been placed in the lily sod house where they will enjoy protection from late frosts.  We hope all three will finally flower next summer.

These bulbs spent last winter in the sod house and they did flower this year.  Stem roots above the bulb provide secure anchorage for a heavy flower laden stalk and may support new bulb development.  Each short green leaf springs from a new bulb.  The bulb on the right has quite a tangle of new bulb growth.  We will sort this jumble out next spring when we set out the parent plant.

Each pot is now home to one bulb that flowered last year and one bulb that took the frost.  White foam board has been added to the walls of the sod house to try and control grass growth there.  Last spring the grass curtain provided cover for the rodent that made its nest here.  Limiting that grass is the first line of defense against the lily eating creature.  Traps will be set wherever the rodent chews through the foam.  22 caliber ammunition filled with bird shot is on hand.  Its use is unlikely since it would injure the lily stems.  Repellent granules are also on hand.  Our preparations and vigilance may allow us to keep the pots in the ground here until they grow too tall to fit under the tarp.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

When we were looking for a piece of land to retire to, we knew that we wanted stones in abundance for wall building.  We have more stones than dirt here but most of them are small.  Finding a stone as big as a dinner plate is rare.  More than a century of farming activity has broken most the surface stones into small pieces.  Still there is a fear that a monster stone will be found in the middle of a planned planting area.  This beast, measuring 24" X 12" X 6", was more than a little difficult to move.  The gash in the top surface was the only impact that the farmer's plow had on this stone.  The plow bounced up and over while the stone firmly held its grip on mother earth.  Ed found the top of the stone with his spade.  It was instantly obvious that larger tools were needed.

He had to split the stone into two still large pieces to remove them from the hole.  Intact the stone would only wiggle from side to side.  No upward motion was possible.  A single well placed blow from the pry bar made one stone two.  The smaller piece was lifted from the hole.  The larger piece remained reluctant to move upward.

This rock was buried with its long axis absolutely vertical.  Improperly handled, a stone this size can be a career ender.  With the small piece out of the hole, Ed was able to safely roll the larger piece up and out of the hole.

When Ed was looking for a cardiologist one suggested that he limit strenuous activity like walking up  slopes.  Stone work like this was out of the question.  Calm controlled slow effort moved the stone up and out.  The rest of the day was filled with a nap and light activity.  He really is getting too old for this kind of exertion but he did wake up this morning.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Fall Frost

Yesterday's weather forecast called for an overnight low temperature of 33 F.  We were pleasantly surprised this morning to find our garden free of frost damage.  A trip to the back acres revealed just how close the frost had come to our front garden.  Pumpkin and squash leaves in the wilderness garden showed varying degrees of damage.  The plants that had climbed the fence were untouched by frost despite their higher elevation.  Plants nearer the woods also escaped burned leaves.

Vines more exposed were hit by the frost.  We had already harvested ripe squash and pumpkins but were now eating stuffed pumpkin blossoms.  The flower in the picture is tightly closed and may be undamaged.  We will check again tomorrow to see if one more batch of blossoms is possible.  If we can remember next year, there is a long period of time when harvesting the male flowers is possible.

Years ago we purchased four sugar maples from a local syrup maker.  Three of the trees are still alive.  We will watch to see if the frost pushes the change in color.  Exactly how our bright fall leaf colors happen is not completely understood here.  We believe frost is a factor so we will watch to see if color follows frost.

Monarch butterflies have been taking advantage of the winds from the north to begin their migration south.  Any moment that we look up from our work now, we see these butterflies flying toward Mexico.  They spiral down to feed on the goldenrod then quickly move on.  All are newly hatched so their colors are bright and their wings are not torn or frayed.  If you look for it, each season is special in its own way.  Migrating monarchs are one visual treat at this time of year.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not Just A Monarch, A Princess

Yesterday, the Monarch butterfly chrysalis that I have been carefully avoiding when I pick my green beans since September 6th,  looked like this.  It was cold this morning, 40 degrees, so I didn't know if anything exciting would happen today even though it was sunny.

It was about 3:00 in the  afternoon when I took the camera out to the garden to check on the butterfly.
The chrysalis was empty.

There below the chrysalis on the wire fence was the butterfly.  In spite of the wind the butterfly maintained a firm grip on the wire.  I took lots of out of focus pictures hoping to get one with its wings extended.  Finally I got a chance to see that this Monarch is a Princess.  The two scent glands that mark Monarch males are not there.

Isn't she a beauty?  This was definitely worth the wait.  She doesn't need the fence any more.  Tomorrow I can pick all the green beans that are ready.

Before I came in the house she had  fluttered to the ground.   The last time I saw her she had climbed up a lily stalk to get as much sun as possible on those gorgeous wings.  I never realized that she would have such a beautiful face!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Way Too Gorgeous To Miss

I don't have time today to write, but the garden is blossoming.  The sunflowers are attracting goldfinches, black capped chickadees and bees to the garden.

Ed's wall is so pretty dressed in pink and white.

This flower is too pretty for words.  I just bought a pair of pants this color I love it so much.  Perhaps I will come back and add to this post later but the flowers are just too gorgeous to miss!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Abundant Harvest

Frost is appearing in local weather forecasts.  We decided to gather up the orange colored pumpkins if they passed the fingernail test.  Ripe pumpkins are described as having a hard skin that will resist puncture from a fingernail.  Orange pumpkins passed the test green ones did not.  Finding this nearly eaten pumpkin inside the fenced area closed the decision to harvest now.

We planted one hill of pie pumpkins.  Frequent water runs were made during the drought to try and save the melons that were planted near the pumpkins.  That water saved both the pumpkins and the squash.  All of the pumpkins have scabs where they healed wounds that may have resulted from rodent bites.  We will soon open two pumpkins to see if the flesh is edible despite their outward appearance.

A glimpse of a rodent in with the plants was made once.  The only impression from that encounter was that the rodent had some size.  A dozen strawberry plants are near the squash but we got no ripe berries.  The mystery rodent took all of them.  It also ate several of the watermelons.  We call this our wilderness garden because of its remote location.  We expect to share on a limited basis with the critters that live here but if the pumpkins are not edible traps will be set.

The butternut squash did not pass the fingernail test but we decided to take the tan colored ones now.  Becky found two sources that claimed that squash will ripen if they are placed in the sun.  The farmer at the local stand says that once squash are picked their development ends.  We will find out how this variety responds to harvest now.  Some appear fully ripe while others still show some green on the skins.

This is our partial harvest from one hill of squash and one hill of pumpkins.  Nearly as many green ones are still in the field.  We have never before had plants that produced like these did.  Vines measure more than twenty-four feet in length.  Blossoms and baby fruit are still appearing on these vines.  Carried water, clay soil and abundant sunshine combined to produce a record harvest.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Buckeye Rot

It is amazing just how fast the status can change in the garden.  We just posted pictures of our best tomato plants in recent memory.  Now we have numerous infestations.  We know little about garden disease.  The size of the list of possible tomato diseases is enormous.  If we knew about all that could go wrong, we would probably grow only stones.

Grass clippings were placed between the plants and the ground as soon as possible.  Garden soil teems with many forms of live organisms and not all of them are beneficial.  Preventing soil splash on tomato foliage is critical to avoiding many diseases.  The layer of grass clippings has nearly rotted away exposing soil in places.  I have no doubt that this exposed soil is the source of our problems.  Next year replenishing the layer of grass clippings will be a must do task.  For this year, tomatoes are over.  Solid fruit will be moved to the basement floor to ripen or spoil there.  All of the plants will be pulled and placed in large clear plastic bags to cook in the sunlight.

We found no pictures of this situation anywhere.  Tiny yellow dots cover the surface of the tomato skin.  Some are arranged in concentric circles.  Is this a form of Lyme disease on tomatoes?  Just today I picked a bright red cherry tomato from the vine and popped it directly into my mouth.  It was delicious but now I am wondering just what else I ate.

Buckeye rot may be the illness shown in the first photo.  I knew that Ohio State University did athletic battle under the name Buckeye but I knew nothing of the words meaning.  Turns out that buckeye is the name of a nut producing tree.  That is new information for me.  I wonder just how many of the football players know that they have a tree nut pictured on their helmets.  There must be a story about how a nut came to be the nickname for those attending this university.  I wonder if the cheer "Go tree nut!", is ever heard in the stadium.  Probably not since it could be the command a hunter would yell at his goofy dog.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Early September North Wind

Pictures of the people here are rarely published.  We would prefer not to frighten people.  The unusual garb deserves an explanation.  Sun sensitivity is an undesirable side effect of some necessary medications.  A Solumbra helmet drape and a long sleeved shirt allow day long work outside.  With little skin exposed biting insects can find no meal here.  Passers by give me strange looks and tend to keep their distance.  I'm not sure that this is new behavior.

Today we noticed a shift in the wind.  It was coming at us from the north.  Frost is predicted in the cold shaded valleys.  Frost will likely not call here tonight but many of our plants detest cold nights.  Three pathetic lemon grass plants survived last winter indoors.  They were among the last of the plants to be planted out.  Their high water need was met during the drought and we have three beautiful plants to bring indoors.  For now they will spend only cold nights in the basement.  The rest of the time they will be outside on the stone wall.

We usually order three Lemon Verbena plants from Richters.  This year we took cuttings from our overwintering basement plants.  The cuttings rooted so for the first time ever we were able to plant out our own young plants.  Leaves on the freshly potted plants are droopy as expected.  Lemon Verbena really resents disturbance of its roots.  By morning their perk will have returned.

In 1993 Becky purchased a scented geranium at Caprilands from Adelma Grenier Simmons.  We have kept the monster alive and in bounds with severe pruning.  This year we discovered a section of stem that had layered.  This piece of plant has leaves, roots and a stem.  It should remain alive.  We could use a fresh start with this treasure.

Days in the summer sun brought the curry leaf plant back to health.  Becky vowed to herself that this plant would not see another winter indoors.  Time will tell the fate of this plant.  Tonight it is safely tucked in a spot on the basement floor.

A Cool Day In The Garden

Ed's day outside started off  with the sighting of a  beautiful new mourning cloak butterfly.  At first it was sitting with its wings wide open to the sunlight,  warming itself to begin its day.  By the time Ed came inside to get the camera and me, the butterfly had warmed enough to flit around.  Ed did manage to get this great picture, but soon after we both watched as the butterfly soared up into the trees.

It was delightfully cool this morning, exactly the kind of weather I love the best for working in the garden.  I chose the bed in front of the house to work on.  We have a grassy weed that is going to seed that begs to be removed.  I called Ed over to help me prop up the sunflowers by placing a cage around the lavender.  He gets right into the the plant despite the presence of the working bees.  Soon after I started pulling the grass, I discovered two chrysanthemum plants behind the bench.  Ed moved the bench out of the way.  Now I wasn't just weeding I was rediscovering plants that had been planted there but had been overtaken with weeds, Ingeborg's mallows, and my self seeded sunflowers.  Ed stopped what he was doing and joined me weeding in the places that are out of my reach.  When the flowers on the mums open we will be able to determine their varietal name.

We really enjoyed clearing  the grass and weeds from the bed.  There are more surprises there than forgotten plants.  Here a praying mantis egg casing is attached to the lavender.  I hope I didn't disturb it.  We can use all the beneficial insects we can get.   We saw lots of caterpillars,  one small green one with unusual chevron stripes, two gold fuzzy ones and a black and white fuzzy one.  We may have temporarily evicted them from their home, but they headed off and I'm sure a new spot will be found.

All the time we were working the buzzing of honeybees was in the air.  Most of them were busty right above our heads on the sunflowers, but this one found the sweet smelling flowers of anise hyssop to her liking.

Now this bed looks a bit more cared for and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the garden.  We didn't head in until it began to rain.

For the first time today Fall was really in the air.  This morning I noticed a Black capped chickadee on the sunflowers.  I haven't seen them around.  I did have a  hummingbird do a close fly by so they are still in the neighborhood.  Monarch butterflies flit about laying their eggs and new ones will soon be hatching out.  New England asters and goldenrod cannot be denied.  In some ways they are my very favorite plants.  Their colors work well together and they signal the arrival of fall.  Goldenrod is horribly invasive and must be removed from well planted areas.  New England asters are deer candy and draw the deer in wherever they grow.  Despite their down side both are present in our garden.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mum's The Word

Bright flowers backed by a dry stone wall is a favorite setting of ours.  It is a combination that seldom  fails to stage beauty.  Here a long time resident Clara Curtis chrysanthemum holds the eye.  We are getting a little better at pinching off early buds to both shape the plant and to increase the number of blossoms.  The taller plant in the back may have only been pinched once.

The business end of the flower is the yellow central disc.  A newly opened flower will show raised pollen bearing anthers completely around the disc.  Various insects harvest the pollen and as the flower matures it shows less and less pollen.  The pink rays simply look nice.  Whether or not they actually attract the pollinators is conjecture but they certainly catch my eye.

These Mammoth Dark Pink Daisy chrysanthemums were purchased from Roots and Rhizomes in 2010.  This spring the plant had increased in size enough to allow division.  The three pictured plants were placed in front of  Oriental lilies and behind a daylily.  A better foreground plant will have to be found but the chrysanthemum foliage worked well in front of the Orientals.

Newly opened flowers display the darkest coloration.  Older flowers lighten toward white begging to be pinched off to keep the display bright.  Vigorous and hardy here in zone 4, this mum is a definite keeper.

The appearance of flowers on the Asters and the Chrysanthemums sweetly signal the move toward fall.  We are now spending most of our outdoor time preparing the garden for next year.  Pulling weeds before they seed, we may be a little late on that front, and planting buckwheat are our primary activities.  It will soon be time to open new ground for the garlic.  September frost is common in our area at the higher elevations so we need to begin potting up our tender favorites.  Soon all of the horizontal surfaces near windows will be covered with plants in pots.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Terrific Tomatoes

Two pictures were required to depict all of one tomato plant.  This plant set eight separate clusters of fruit with a ninth bunch of blossoms now open.  This might seem rather ordinary to some but we are coming off two consecutive years of total crop loss to late blight.  Two years ago several tomato plants were closely planted and no suckers were removed.  Late blight quickly took all of the plants.  We felt partly responsible for the crop loss since our mistakes heavily contributed to the susceptibility of the plants to the disease.  Last year we increased the spacing between the plants, removed the suckers as soon as they appeared and used an anti blight spray.  Still we lost our tomatoes to the blight.

This year the increased distance between the plants and the sucker removal were repeated.  No spray was used.  Somehow it seemed unwise to use a substance that requires me to wear a breathing mask while spraying and wash all of my clothes immediately after on something that I intend to eat.  Weather is a big factor in the spread of late blight.  This year the air brought us no blight.  The curled leaves indicate the presence of some wilt.  Wilt will slowly cause the plants to drop their leaves but we will harvest vine ripened fruit for many more days to come.

Both Italian Goliath and Ferline have some blight resistance naturally.  Both will be planted again next year.  Our Better Boys all have open cracks at the stem end and hard greenish yellow places in the upper sections of the fruit.  This may be the result of our unwillingness to use chemical fertlizer but we are looking for a new variety of tomato for next year.  Any suggestions?

I really don't like to spend time reading the plant disease section of gardening books.  I prefer to think the plants will be healthy and many times they are.  However a check in the book would seem to indicate that the cracks, yellow shoulders and hard green spots on some of my tomatoes are all a result of drought.  Apparently evenly moist soil will avoid these problems.  One good thing, I can compost the fruit without worrying about disease this time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Worth A Closer Look

After hard rain during the night, the garden remained wet today.  With the rain we are finally getting some green beans.  It's really not a great idea to pick green beans when the plants are wet, but if you take a closer look, there is another obstacle to moving the fence that surrounds the green beans.

Dripping wet but looking good, a monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from the wire fence.

After the rain the Autumn Joy sedum has flattened out.  The weight of the water adds to the weight of all those flowers.  Their fragrance is heavy in the air.  It is not a scent that I find appealing.

A closer look at the sedum reveals a "Marge Simpson " spider and her web.  She has been there for several days and seems to find it a good hunting spot.

Fall is the time for lots of  purple and yellow composite flowers in the garden.  New England asters and Rudebeckia triloba add more than color to the garden.  They provide pollen and nectar for the bees that will be used to make food needed this winter.

A closer look reveals the tiny yellow flowers that open a few at a time, giving the flower the maximum amount of bloom time to produce seed and giving the bees the maximum amount of time to visit.
At first glance there is a lot to see in the garden, but if you just stop to take a closer look, you can see so much more!